Monday, March 22, 2010

Harry's Health: He Votes No On Health Care; Turn Around Time? Plus: Weh First With GOP Guv TV, And: Food Tax Challenge For Di 

Teague vs. Pearce
Insider Dems, refusing to throw in the towel on southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague, are now pounding the table, saying the end of the healthcare debate this week could end up saving the Democratic lawmaker's neck from the hangman's noose in November.

As they tell it, the passions that burn so deeply over healthcare in March will dim by the fall, giving Teague needed time out of the hot seat (he voted no on the plan that was approved by the House Sunday) and a chance to get on the offensive against his GOP challenger--former US Rep. Steve Pearce.

Pearce leads freshman Teague 43-41 in a February PPP poll, but the psychology of the race may be cooling a smidgen. The Washington Post's leading pundit now has the race ranked as the 10th most likely to change hands. That's down several notches. And all signs point to Teague being able to outspend Pearce--one of the most critical clues to the outcome of any US House race.

And then there's the press narrative that says "Teague is through." Dem analysts argue that could change as the media look for a horse race and when Teague hits with paid TV, flexing his money and incumbent muscle.

Then there's Pearce's Social Security and Medicare problem. Teague may have had his hands full with health care, but the Dems are starting to hammer Pearce for his support for privatizing the popular entitlement programs for the elderly. They think that might especially resonate in a year when voters' financial fears are paramount.

The R's say the Dems passage of healthcare will be their premier issue in November and the one that will lead them to a majority in the House, but Teague's vote against it buys him an insurance policy. With Teague down in the low 40's, the R's have Teague walking toward the gallows, but they have a way to go before they get that noose around his neck.


Allen Weh is running on his war record. No, not the war he was involved in while serving as NM GOP chairman. That other war--Vietnam. Weh became the first of the GOP guv contender to air broadcast and cable TV for the June 1 primary, coming with a 30 second spot over the weekend that highlights the strongest part of his resume--his service in the Marine Corps and being awarded the Silver Star for bravery.

Insiders say Weh did not make a big media buy, but that shouldn't last long. Weh is expected to tap his personal fortune to finance the remainder of his run.

The TV spot is slickly produced and features two veterans who served under Lieutenant Weh, attesting to the combat dangers they faced. One of them flatly states: "He saved our lives."

Weh, wounded in combat, went on to achieve the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Ret.) and collected a number of other medals in addition to the Silver Star.

Weh's appeal will be strongest among Anglo men--the primary GOP constituency--and this spot reinforces that. Republican turnout will skew older and conservative as well. Weh is both.

Weh's tenure as state party chairman ended badly. The Dems now have more power than ever, and the R's are still bedeviled by factionalism i.e. the Bushies vs. those looking for something different. He is also seen as probably the weakest GOP nominee to go against presumed Dem nominee Diane Denish. He is perceived as strident and too conservative to appeal to moderates who will decide the November election,

But Weh's chances in the GOP primary are still good, despite an important setback at the GOP preprimary convention where Weh was beaten for first place on the ballot by Susana Martinez.

Weh may not have broad appeal electoral appeal, but if 30 percent or so will get you the nomination in this five way duel, his TV keeps him in the thick of it.


Weh's military record provides a compelling personal narrative that GOP voters can connect with. That's something Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez is going to have to go for, too. She is more familiar to El Paso voters than those in ABQ and Santa Fe. That should change in the weeks ahead as the race for the GOP guv nomination heats up.

Martinez sat down with KRQE-TV for one of her first long-form TV interviews following her victory at the GOP preprimary convention. Her interview was serviceable, but she did not weave into her answers any personal biography that would give voters an idea of who she is.

Domenici also answered the round of TV questions competently, but neither did he provide much in the way of background about himself or what he has done that would make him effective as governor.

We'll watch with interest as the R hopefuls compete not only on who has the better campaign platform, but who bests connects with likely primary voters on a personal level.

The Doug Turner TV interview is here. Janice Arnold-Jones here and Allen Weh here.

Secretary of State Mary Herrera threw the Alligators a curve ball when she named her controversial #2 as the new director of the Bureau of Elections. Don Francisco Trujillo will retain his title of deputy secretary of state, will get a pay raise (to $95,000) and apparently further consolidate power in the office that has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons.

The Gators had Kelly Fulgenzi, an administrator in the bureau, becoming the new director. That was based on an email going around that they said originated with Herrera. But Fulgenzi will stay in her classified position, even though Trujillo and Herrera were the subjects of ethics allegations made by former bureau of elections director AJ Salazar who resigned. (Fulgenzi seems always the bridesmaid and never the bride. She also lost out when then-ABQ Mayor Chavez bypassed her for the position of city clerk).

The Trujillo move is not surprising in one regard. We've written how the charges against Herrera, while serious, are unlikely to threaten her re-election, so she feels free to continue the management style that has provoked so much angst. But she is playing with fire and if Trujillo makes any more messes, the political calculus could change.

As for Salazar, he made his case against Herrera in emails now released to the public. His intent was clearly to topple Trujillo from power and injure Herrera. But it hasn't worked. For him we have this age-old advice: Don't bring a knife to a gun fight.


More on the hyper-controversial food tax and the position of soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. We blogged Thursday that Denish "refused" to say whether, if as Governor, she would veto the reinstatement of the food tax approved by the recent special session of the legislature. We based that on reporting from the New Mexican's Steve Terrell:

On the matter of the food tax, she told reporters at a news conference last week that she was against reinstating the tax on food because, she said, it's regressive. But, when asked by reporters, she wouldn't say whether she'd veto the food tax if she were governor.

But the Denish camp says it is not refusing to say whether she would veto the food tax:

We’re saying she’s against the food tax. She’s been vocally against it from day one. If it can be vetoed, she’d support that veto. If she were Governor, she would not have negotiated a budget that included a sales tax and a food tax. She’s been clear and consistent: no taxes on middle class New Mexicans.

The key line is "if it can be vetoed." There is a question of whether Gov. Big Bill can line item the food tax. If not, to get rid of it he would have to veto the entire $230 million tax increase package approved by lawmakers.

Denish is saying she would not be put in that position because she would not have allowed such a package to reach her desk. Still, If Richardson does not veto the tax citing constitutional questions Republicans will ask her what she would have done as Governor if she was unable to veto---let the tax stand? Or veto the entire tax package and call the legislators back into session?

Of course, if Bill is able to veto the food tax she's off the hook. His decision will come this week.

The light guv did not call a news conference immediately following the session to clearly announce her position on the food tax or other taxes approved. Nor did she seek out TV or press interviews to condemn the tax. Her stance trickled out a meeting with reporters called for another subject. Her campaign may be under the impression that her position on this one is loud and clear, but we don't think we've heard the last of the shouting.


Denish has been practicing her stump speech and style in preparation for the rigorous campaign months ahead. You can get a sense of it from this video of her speech at the recent Democratic Party preprimary convention.


We made an easy prediction when we blogged that the behind-the-scenes battle between Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi and Dennis Montoya, her Dem primary challenger, would soon surface in the papers. It did just that Sunday, as the ethics complaint Vanzi filed against Montoya when she was a district court judge got the full treatment. It's been making the rounds in the email for several weeks.

Montoya was beat up pretty bad in the piece, which included reports on sanctions he's received from federal judges. But the race remains unpredictable. The dynamics of a Dem primary featuring an Hispanic male vs. an Anglo woman keep Montoya in the running, even as the legal community continues to sour on him. Vanzi is going to have to spend some money to change that equation.

The complete legal documents about Montoya are here and here.


It was about the time we graduated from a tricycle to a bicycle that we heard for the first time the word "conservationist." Stewart Udall's name was in the same sentence. It was the early 60's and Udall was Jack Kennedy's Secretary of Interior, a post from which the Arizonan, and later New Mexican, would help launch the modern environmental protection movement.

Udall, father of NM junior Senator Tom Udall, was called "a great American" by just about everyone who eulogized him. He died Saturday at his home in Santa Fe. The New York Times obit is here. The AP take is here.

We also remember Udall, who served in the US House from Arizona in the 1950's, as a wily politician. We think northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan would agree.

In May of 2008 Stewart Udall came with a critical public endorsement of Ben Ray who was locked in an intense fight for the Dem nomination with Santa Fe green developer Don Wiviott. Wiviott was laying claim to the environmental vote in the six way Dem primary during which Lujan, son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, was under attack from all sides.

That endorsement in a contested primary signaled Lujan's acceptance by one of the nation's original environmentalists, helping to halt momentum for Wiviott among liberal Dems. And the Udalls benefitted as well. Tom Udall was running for US senate that year and the endorsement of the young Lujan may have helped him with the Hispanic vote up north.

Stewart Udall was 90.

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